Despite 2013 entering its final months, there’s still plenty of activity in the country’s sheep marts. AgriLand touched base with a number of prominent sheep marts around the country to see how the trade is going.

Most marts reported that apart from the fantastic summer months weather wise, 2013 was a very tough year for sheep farmers. Most mart managers reported lighter lambs been sold earlier than usual either because of poor grass growth or because farmers just needed the money.

Lamb prices while strong in the spring and early summer, fell off seasonally and in general the situation entering the winter months is not overly encouraging for farmers.

Breeding sales for the most part were down on previous years, but perhaps on a positive note the trade was not as bad as a lot of mart managers initially feared.

Maam Cross Mart, Galway

“It took farmers awhile to adjust to the extreme spring conditions,” noted Eoin Burke mart manager in Maam cross Mart, Connemara. “Lambs were later coming out much this year, I’d say were four weeks behind last year,” he added.

In previous years Burke noted: “Some lots of ewes with lambs or ewes in lamb would come out earlier in the year, but this spring they were few and far between given the shocking conditions.”

However he added that “there moving now. Numbers are certainly up in the last few weeks”.

“Mountain ewe and lamb breeds a harder sell this year than other years. Prices are back 15 on two years ago and in the region of five to eight on last year at this time of the year,” Burke added.

On this year’s breeding ewe sales he said: “The mule sale was very good this year Good Hoggets are making 70-80, top lots possibly breaking 100. Broken mouthed mountain sheep are making 18-25. Good breeding ewes made 25-35.”

Roscommon Co-op mart

“We had 1,200 sheep for sale yesterday,” commented Maura Quigley mart manager in Roscommon. She said: “There was a steady trade for lambs with a good clearance of lots. The prices for Cast Ewes were similar to last week with all lots getting sold.

Sample prices at yesterday’s sale were:

Ewe Lambs: 48.45 kgs €94.50, 55.91 kgs €101, 44.86 kgs €89, 53.13 kgs €99, 44 kgs €100, 45.82 kgs €91, 45.60 kgs €101, 46.22 kgs €100, 53.75 kgs €115, 47.88 kgs €99,
Wether Lambs: 48.67 kgs €96, 46.14 kgs €91.50, 43.33 kgs €90, 52 kgs €101, 43.82 kgs €84.50, 53.17 kgs €101, 42.27 kgs €80
Ram Lambs: 55 kgs €101, 49.85 kgs €94, 52.75 kgs €98, 46.43 kgs €90,
Store Lambs made from €64 to €82.50 per head, while Cast Ewes made from €52 to €95.50 per head

According to Quigley: “We were very happy with this week’s trade, we got customers for all the cast ewes and over 90 per cent of the lambs were sold.”

Tullow Mart, Carlow

According to Eric Driver, mart manager in Tullow: “The sheep trade has improved in the past two weeks.”

Commenting on the trade he said: “Store lambs 30-40kg are up €10 a head on two weeks ago. We see increased levels of farmer buyers in the market, who have surplus grass, they’re driving this trade,” he added.

“Heavy lambs have been very stable over the past few weeks. However there was an improvement this week up €2-€3 a head for well fleshed lambs. Agents were defiantly in the market for lambs this week,” Driver noted.

“Possibly a shortage out there” he said. “The kill has been very high in the last few weeks and there’s a large volume of lambs killed already and along with that we’ve seen a lot of lighter lambs come out earlier this year. Farmers just needed the money earlier in the year for cashflow purposes,” he added.

In Driver’s view cast ewes have been stable all year in Tullow. “Breeding sheep were ok this year. I was very cautious going into the breeding sales season. Felt the market could be well down with the terrible spring” he added.

“The Tullow sheep breeder’s sales went very well. But as usual quality sold. Poorer lots were harder sold but be got customers for most of them.”

Wexford Marts 

“The sheep trade in general has been up and down in the last few weeks,” commented Tommy Harrington mart manager in Enniscorthy. He said: “Trade at the moment is generally being determined on which buyers around the ring at a given sale.”

“Store lams are a big positive at the moment though” he noted. “Farmers are buying these types of lambs to eat extra grass after the good weather in the last few months.” Heavier lambs 50-55 kg were making on average €97-€108 per head.

According to Harrington: “The breeding sales never got off the ground this year”. In general hogget’s made €110 -€130 on average. The top quality lots were making €140-€160 this year.

On the lamb trade he noted: “Lambs were defiantly slower coming out this year”. “Poor thrive in the spring months really reduced the volume of lambs being sold early in the year,” he added.

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